Who can conceive what the Lord intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns. And scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out? Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.

– The Book of Wisdom, 9:13-18

BILLIONAIRE Elon Musk sees his Tesla electric vehicles as addressing global warming and his SpaceX rockets enabling humanity to find new worlds as Earth reaches its limits. But for him, an even bigger worry is one that he can do little about: the declining population in the world's wealthy northern nations, including China.

Musk shared his fear of population decline on Twitter, exactly three years since he and fellow billionaire Jack Ma of China's high-tech Alibaba group raised the concern, speaking together at the 2019 Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai.

"The biggest issue in 20 years will be population collapse — not explosion — collapse," said Musk then. Ma concurred: "The population problem is going to be a huge challenge. ... the speed of population decrease is going to speed up. You (Musk) called it a 'collapse.' I agree with you."

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Global population experts beg to disagree. The United Nations projects humanity to number 8 billion by mid-November this year, up 30 percent since 2000 and more than triple the 2.5 billion in 1950. Despite slower growth, the world population is still projected at about 10 billion in two decades. That could push the planet to breaking point.

What our Maker thinks

What might God think of this debate between global billionaires and bureaucrats about how many billions of souls there will be on the planet?

The September 4 Mass readings may offer a clue. As the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, quoted above, declares, man's musings miss the Maker's mind, not only because of our limited faculties but also due to worldly and bodily concerns constraining our pondering.

Back in the 1960s, the fear was population explosion, based on the ideas of 18th century economist Thomas Malthus. Malthusian theory expected the number of people to double every 25 years while food production grew incrementally. In fact, population growth has slowed while supply of edibles trebled.

Today, partly due to past policies curbing births, rich nations face aging crises. Meanwhile, the global spread of affluence, sought by all humanity, is overheating the world, burying it in trash and depleting nature.

And a mammoth part of the immense burden on the planet are the unprecedented resources, effort and environmental strain devoted to arms and armies. As seen in the global fallout from the Ukraine war, the drive to outdo one another in wealth and weapons is dooming us all.

I told you so — that may well be the line from above. Indeed, our Lord warned of war and opulence in the Sunday Mass Gospel reading from St. Luke (Lk 14:25-33), admonishing the mansion builder to make sure he has enough materials to finish it, and the monarch to make peace with a far more numerous adversary:

"Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?... Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?"

Love is the answer

Unfortunately, instead of consuming what the planet can sustainably provide and making peace rather than projectiles, humanity has done the very opposite. If humanity, especially the wielders of wealth and power, followed our Lord's admonition to uplift the least of our brethren before buying mansions, Maseratis and missiles, then there would be less waste, pollution and deprivation.

Not to mention war, which could eradicate humanity right now, decades before global warming or population collapse can.

Just think: While the UN World Food Program (WFP) estimated a cost of $6 billion to address famine, which billionaire Musk said he would fork out once he validated if the amount could indeed eradicate starvation. (He sold $6 billion of Tesla stock afterward, but it was not clear if he donated to WFP.)

And $265 billion a year is the most needed to feed all hungry people, while one estimate put it at $330 billion by 2030. Meanwhile, world military spending topped $2 trillion last year (https://www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2022/world-military-expenditure-passes-2-trillion-first-time).

The second Mass reading from the Letter of St. Paul to Philemon (Phmn 9-10, 12-17), the Apostle to the Gentiles shows the caring for others which should govern our lives and living. Instead of holding on to Onesimus during his lonely, distressed time in a Rome prison, Paul let his longtime companion go.

Also extolling divine love is the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17), which declared: "Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. And may the gracious care of the Lord our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands!"

God will, of course, only prosper those works that serve His will, building His Kingdom of peace, righteousness, love and holiness on earth. So, even as the planet's bosses debate our future, let's make sure to heed the warnings of Him Who truly decides our fate and the emissaries and visionaries bringing His messages.

Our Lord has given ample warnings through the centuries, including apparitions of his Blessed Mother warning not of global warming or population collapse, but devastating conflict ("The Cold War is getting hot. Pray it won't go global" https://www.manilatimes.net/2022/08/11/opinion/columns/the-cold-war-is-getting-hot-pray-it-wont-go-global/1854191).

Let's not give him reason to say again, I told you so.